Meet the 7 top contenders for the Chelsea job – and their chances of getting it
1. Massimiliano Allegri
He’s never left Italy and the adjustment to the Premier League’s fast-paced football and clogged fixture list would be a testing one
Strengths: The Italian is a tactically astute and adaptable coach. He led Juventus to a league and cup double and the Champions League final in his first season, and has dragged them from poor early-season form into a 14-match winning run this term. Allegri is willing to experiment with different systems to find the right balance and, on top of that, he’s already learning English.
Weaknesses: He’s never left Italy, and the adjustment to the Premier League’s fast-paced football and clogged fixture list would be a testing one. There’s also the question of how he would handle a John Terry-less dressing room: at Milan and Juve, Allegri has benefited from having natural leaders like Alessandro Nesta and Gigi Buffon in his squads, but without Terry around Allegri would have to take on extra responsibility.
Verdict: The Juve boss remains the bookies’ favourite for Chelsea despite claiming: “I want this story to be over and done with as there’s absolutely no truth in it.” He’ll be extremely difficult to prise away from the Old Lady, but the Blues’ reported £7.7 million-per-season offer could tempt him yet.
2. Diego Simeone
Reports suggest Simeone’s pragmatic coaching style means he isn’t a popular option with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich
Strengths: Bubbling with energy and charisma, the fiery Argentine has transformed Atletico Madrid into a title-winning outfit despite having a fraction of Real Madrid and Barcelona’s budget. His Atleti are a formidably well-organised unit featuring players who will happily run themselves into the ground for him, and he knows how to get the best out of Diego Costa.
Weaknesses: Reports suggest Simeone’s pragmatic coaching style means he isn’t a popular option with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich after the Jose Mourinho fallout. He’s also untested in England and doesn’t yet speak the language, despite (apparently ongoing) efforts to learn. An inability to communicate effectively would be a significant obstacle for a man who depends so much on his qualities as a motivator.
Verdict: Simeone has a contract at the Vicente Calderon until 2020 and is an icon for Atleti fans. If Abramovich has really decided against him, then it’s unlikely that Chelsea will attempt the difficult process of prising him away.
3. Manuel Pellegrini
His teams play attractive football, he speaks good English and the Chilean already has insight into the problems Chelsea have suffered this season
Strengths: The Manchester City manager has proven Premier League pedigree, having led his current club to the title in 2014. His teams play attractive football, he speaks good English and the Chilean already has insight into the problems Chelsea have suffered this season. A safe pair of hands.
Weaknesses: Pellegrini has struggled to organise his team defensively when Vincent Kompany has been absent this term, which raises doubts over whether he’s the right man to rebuild a shaky Blues backline that might not feature Terry next season. His reception by fans could be mixed due to his City ties.
Verdict: Pellegrini will leave the Etihad Stadium this summer and reportedly wants to stay in the Premier League. If Chelsea are keen, the 62-year-old is an achievable and reliable option.
4. Antonio Conte
Conte tends to be hugely popular with his players and has been praised for naming his Italy side based on form rather than reputation
Strengths: The Italy boss’s fiery personality made him a fan favourite at Juventus both as a player and coach. He led the Bianconeri to three consecutive Serie A titles during his time in the latter role, winning Manager of the Year each time. Conte tends to be hugely popular with his players and has been praised for naming his Italy side based on form rather than reputation.
Weaknesses: Champions League struggles were the main blot on Conte’s Juve copybook – he failed to take them past the quarter-finals despite domestic dominance. This was blamed by many on his unyielding faith in the 3-5-2 formation from which he rarely alternates; with nine wins from 16 Azzurri matches, he hasn’t yet fully shaken off those doubts that he can succeed outside of Italian domestic football.
Verdict: Conte’s Italy contract is up this summer and he’s spoken of his appreciation for the Premier League in the past. Chelsea will need to make their move soon, though: meetings with the Italian FA are scheduled, and Milan are lurking.
5. Jorge Sampaoli
If reports that the Chilean told Abramovich he could convince compatriot Alexis Sanchez to move across London are to be believed, Sampaoli has another string to his bow
Strengths: Sampaoli showed his coaching pedigree over the last year after leading Chile to the Copa America title and earning a nomination for the FIFA Coach of the Year award. If reports that the Chilean told Abramovich he could convince compatriot Alexis Sanchez to move across London are to be believed, Sampaoli has another string to his bow.
Weaknesses: He would inarguably be a gamble: the 55-year-old has never managed a club in Europe, let alone England. Despite having been in management since 1994, Sampaoli would require a significant period of adjustment. It’s a big leap from international to club management, let alone across continents and with a language barrier to boot. He might not be afforded that.
Verdict: Sampaoli is available after quitting as Chile boss last month and is believed to want the job. A riskier option, perhaps, but an intriguing and obtainable one nonetheless.
6. Guus Hiddink
Chelsea are likely to undergo wholesale change this summer; having the Dutchman pulling the strings would undoubtedly ease the process
Strengths: First and foremost, familiarity. Chelsea are likely to undergo wholesale change this summer; having the Dutchman pulling the strings would undoubtedly ease the process. They know what to expect from him and results have improved since he succeeded Mourinho in December. Hiddink also has the respect of the players and has brought out the best of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas once again.
Weaknesses: Despite results improving since his arrival, many have questioned whether performances have got much better. The 69-year-old has been criticised for being overly cautious at times, such as when he fielded both John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic in the 0-0 draw with Watford earlier this month.
Verdict: Hiddink only has an outside chance of keeping his job past the summer, but if moves for more glamorous names fail then he’s a safe bet for the role.
7. Brendan Rodgers
Rodgers, whose devotion to a possession-based game has repeatedly come under fire in the past, struggled to find the right balance at Anfield before his dismissal in October
Strengths: Despite his sacking by Liverpool, Rodgers has a wealth of Premier League experience that cannot be ignored. The passing game he likes his teams to play would mark an intriguing departure from Mourinho’s functional style, while Steven Gerrard described the Northern Irishman as one of the best man-managers he has seen.
Weaknesses: Rodgers, whose devotion to a possession-based game has repeatedly come under fire in the past, struggled to find the right balance at Anfield before his dismissal in October. He didn’t exactly open the door for himself at Stamford Bridge when he criticised the club’s decision to sack Mourinho last month, either.
Verdict: The former Swansea boss is a long shot, but, having worked with the Blues as a youth coach in the past, his familiarity with the club could work to his advantage. Rodgers is keen to return to the game but is likely to be further down the shortlist than his aforementioned rivals.